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El Encinal Wins Carlos Pellegrini, South America’s Biggest Race

El Encinal pulled a 14-1 upset and earned a Breeders’ Cup berth Saturday evening when he captured the Group 1, US$99,865 Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini Internacional at San Isidro near Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Craftily ridden by Eduardo Ortega Pavón, El Encinal split rivals in mid-stretch of the nearly 1 1/2-mile turf race before getting up in the final jumps to nail No Fear by a head in a thrilling finish.

The Pellegrini, the most prestigious race in South America, is the first Breeders’ Cup win-and-you’re-in race of the 2023-24. With his narrow victory in a field of 14 3-year-olds and upward, El Encinal earned an invitation to the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf next November at Del Mar.

After the top two finishers, it was two lengths back to Treasure Island in third. Jazz Seiver, part of a favored entry, was another head back in fourth.

The triumph was by far the most noteworthy in the nascent racing career of El Encinal. After being defeated in his first five starts, he has won three of his last four. He was a nose winner of an August maiden race in his sixth start, then he wheeled back to win the Ensayo (G3) in September, both at San Isidro. His lone interim attempt resulted in a sixth-place finish behind Happy Happy Day in the age-restricted Jockey Club (G1) on Oct. 7, also at San Isidro.

El Encinal is a chestnut 3-year-old colt by the Chile sire Il Campione, a son of the late, noted sire Scat Daddy and was produced by the Argentina mare Asediada Emper by Emperor Jones. Miguel Alberto Gómez trains the colt for the Stud Doña Pancha, perhaps best known to U.S. racing fans as the owner of Calidoscopio, winner of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2).

Ortega Pavón had El Encinal nicely settled while saving ground in mid-pack for much of the Pellegrini. Happy Happy Day sped off to an open lead up the backstretch and into the turn.

Down the 680-yard homestretch, Treasure Island first took over for Happy Happy Day after which the filly No Fear made a sustained run to take full command with a little more than 100 yards to go. It was only a determined late run by El Encinal that snatched the win from No Fear in the shadow of the wire with the winning time of 2:25.46 without a run-up for the 2,400 meters, 15 yards short of 1 1/2 miles.

The three-way Group 1-winning entry of Natan, Happy Happy Day and Jazz Seiver, all owned by Stud Las Monjitas, a powerhouse stable in Argentina, was the 9-5 favorite among 12 betting interests. No Fear and Treasure Island were next at 7-2 with El Encinal among the middling choices at 14-1.

Natan, a 25-length winner of the 2022 Jockey Club as a 3-year-old, was the major disappointment Saturday when failing to be a serious factor in finishing sixth.

Source: Horse Racing Nation